The people of the United States are getting ready to celebrate what is arguably their most important holiday – Thanksgiving.
American Thanksgiving has its roots in the relationship between Native Americans and pilgrim settlers, but it is controversial and often accused of downplaying the persecution of Native Americans.
Thanksgiving holidays are also celebrated with different backgrounds in other parts of the world, including Canada and the Caribbean.
Here’s when it will be in 2022 and the meaning behind the holiday.
When is Thanksgiving 2022?
In the United States, Thanksgiving is traditionally celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, which means it falls on November 24 this year.
This is because Abraham Lincoln declared a regular national Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November 1863.
The tradition has remained the same ever since—with the brief exception of 1940 and 1941, when President Franklin Roosevelt tried to move the celebration to the third Thursday of the month for commercial reasons.
Canada’s Thanksgiving Day takes place on the second Monday of October, which is October 10 this year, and is held to celebrate the harvest and other blessings of the past year.
What is the meaning of Thanksgiving?
The origins of Thanksgiving can be traced back to September 1620, when a small ship carried the mayflower left England with 102 pilgrims in search of a new home where they could practice their faith freely.
They were drawn to America, then called the New World, by the promise of prosperity and the opportunity to own their own land.
In 1621, these colonists and the Wampanoag Native Americans of Plymouth, in modern-day Massachusetts, celebrated together a fall harvest festival they had worked out together—the first ever Thanksgiving.
It is said that an Indian named Squanto was critical to the pilgrims’ survival during their first year. He showed them how to grow corn, catch fish, avoid poisonous plants, and extract sap from maple trees. He also helped them forge an alliance with the Wampanoag.
However, this was the only successful bringing together of Native Americans and colonists during this period, and many Native Americans believe that Thanksgiving celebrations overwrite a history of often being persecuted and killed.
How is it celebrated?
Food is the central part of Thanksgiving. People typically eat turkey that is either oven roasted or deep fried.
Other traditional dishes include mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce.
Turkey and cranberry sauce is a combination that dates back at least to 1796 when it was mentioned in a cookbook American cuisineby Amelia Simmons – the first American cookbook to be published in the United States.
A variety of vegetarian options were developed—such as green bean casserole, a recipe developed by Dorcas Reilly in 1955 to promote Campbell Soup Company’s cream of mushroom soup. Mushroom Wellington and winter squash are another alternative.
Parades have become a big part of the US holiday. Among the country’s largest is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York City, hosted by the department store, which attracts more than two million spectators each year — as well as a large television audience.
Another tradition has it that each year the president “pardons” a live Thanksgiving turkey by sending it to a farm where it can live out the rest of its days, rather than being sent to slaughter.
Since the 1970s, many Native Americans and protesters have instead observed the holiday as “National Day of Mourning” to commemorate those who lost their lives at the hands of foreign settlers when America was colonized.
How does the Thanksgiving turkey pardon work?
Every year on Thanksgiving, the US President, using his constitutional powers to “grant pardons and pardons for offenses against the United States,” pardons a turkey (or two) and its life is spared.
According to the National Constitution Center, the first president to unofficially pardon a turkey was Abraham Lincoln, who directed the White House to save a bird given to the president. Lincoln’s son is said to have grown fond of the bird – and the President was an animal lover.
Then, in 1963, John F. Kennedy started a trend by publicly sparing a turkey given to the White House for dinner (it carried a sign that read “Good Eatin’ Mr President”). Other presidents followed suit – but it was George HW Bush who made the turkey pardon official when he took office in 1989.
That year, Joe Biden pardoned two turkeys named Peanut Butter and Jelly. At a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, he said: “Peanut butter and jelly were chosen for their temperament, looks and, I suspect, immunization status. Yes, instead of being watered these two turkeys are getting a boost.”